Harry Potter park serves up 1 millionth Butterbeer

It’s not just a beverage, it’s an experience. That’s the word from Universal Orlando Resort, which said today that the company has sold 1 million Butterbeers in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

The creamy-smooth concoction is a favorite drink in the Harry Potter books and movies, and it’s also a favorite at the theme park, where guests will wait in ride-sized lines to buy a cup. Last year, a fourth location selling the drink was added to the theme park to alleviate some of the lines.

There’s no alcohol in Butterbeer. It’s a sweet drink, which Universal says tastes of shortbread and butterscotch. I liken it to a cream soda. You can get both cold and frozen versions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park where the Wizarding World is located.

There are lots of do-it-yourself Butterbeer recipes out there online, but Universal’s is secret. In fact, the company says it has put special security procedures in place to keep it that way.

To celebrate the 1 millionth Butterbeer, Universal passed out 1,000 free ones on the streets of the Wizarding World.

Universal ride that caught fire will be closed for weeks

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls water ride will be closed for several weeks following a fire at Islands of Adventure on Saturday night.

The Universal Orlando ride will be closed to repair the damage, and to undergo seasonal maintenance, according to Universal. Ripsaw Falls had already been scheduled to be closed for maintenance in a couple of weeks.

About 5:30 Saturday evening, the ride and surrounding Toon Lagoon area were evacuated when clouds of black smoke started billowing from the ride’s roof. Forty firefighters called to the scene had the fire under control in about 30 minutes and completely out in about an hour, officials told the Orlando Sentinel.

No guests were injured in the fire, though a few were evaluated at the theme park’s first aid station.

The rest of the Islands of Adventure theme park remained open during and after the fire.

The exact cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

Fire erupts at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure

A ride – a water ride, of all things – caught fire at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure on New Year’s Day, causing the evacuation of a section of the theme park.

The fire happened around 5:30 p.m., according to Central Florida News 13. No injuries have been reported.

Universal Orlando officials evacuted the ride, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, as well as the surrounding Toon Lagoon area.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. According to witnesses at the scene, the ride fire started on the roof.

“My source tells me a vendor truck next to the ride caught fire. A tree spread the fire to the top of the ride,” according to Brian J. Smith on Twitter.

Smith tweeted the photo used here and attributed it to his sister, a theme park employee.

Ripsaw Falls is one of Islands of Adventure‘s original rides. It opened with the theme park in 1999.

The ride remains closed, the rest of the theme park will be open during its previously announced operating hours.

Inside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No, really. I got inside.

This is all I can show you of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida.

Monday night, I was a guest at private party thrown by Universal Orlando Resort to show off their newest theme park addition, which, for the most part, has been kept tightly under wraps. The Wizarding World opens one month from today, and after my walk-through last night, I can say much of it is already complete.

But no photos were allowed, and while I was completely tempted to break the rules, I heeded the words Professor Dumbledore speaks in his office at the new ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey:

“There will come a time when you have to choose between what is easy and what is right.”

So, the gallery displaying all of the obsessive detail inside the land will have to wait.

I was blown away — I’m still blown away — by the amount of immersion into Harry Potter’s world I experienced. I arrived at the Wizarding World at twilight, and the view through that archway in the picture above was perfect. Just perfect.

The Hogwarts Express train sits just inside on the right, the shops and restaurants of Hogsmeade line up along the path and straight ahead is the towering Hogwarts School. Just a few steps inside, you totally forget about Hulk and Spidey and the Sneetches just outside in the other Islands of Adventure.

I tried the three much-anticipated drinks to be served in the Wizarding World: nonalcoholic butterbeer, pumpkin juice and Hog’s Head Brew, which does have alcohol.

I walked through Dervish and Banges, Honeydukes, Owl Post and Zonko’s shops.And I visited Professor Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where I saw Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron appear from underneath the invisibility cloak.

But, alas, I can’t show you any of it. So my observations will have to do. Some random thoughts:

  • There is a regular butterbeer and a frozen version. I liked the frozen version better. It was like the smoothest cream soda ever, but with a creamier finish. The regular drink will sell for $2.99 and the frozen version will cost an extra $1.
  • Pumpkin juice tastes like autumn. It’s not like drinking pumpkin pie, exactly — more like something you would be served at an apple grove farm stand or the perfect punch for a Halloween party. A peek at the ingredients revealed that it’s made with apple juice, pumpkin puree, apricot juice and pumpkin pie spices.
  • The Hog’s Head Brew is an ale made with Scottish hops and jaw-tingling malt. It is exclusive to the Wizarding World.
  • Among my favorite Harry Potter merchandise: clever lanyards made to look like the ties worn by students in the different houses at Hogwarts, a Gryffindor backpack, Hedwig plush and the “I served time in Azkaban” T-shirt.
  • The queue line for Flight of the Hippogriff – a re-themed roller coaster inside the Wizarding World – takes you down the path to Hagrid’s Hut, complete with Hagrid’s voice warning you about venturing into the forest.
  • The Triwizard Cup is on display in a room all by itself in the queue line at the Dragon Challenge dueling roller coasters. A pathway is lit with floating candles a la Hogwarts.
  • The new dark ride inside Hogwarts Castle, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is not child’s play. A serious list of restrictions warns away the pregnant and those with the typical heart and back problems. But it goes on to suggest that those with claustrophobic tendencies also not ride. A warning to remove and stow prosthetic limbs before riding seems particularly ominous.
  • The new ride was not running, but we were allowed to walk through the entire queue. Universal is anticipating extremely long waits; it was the longest queue I have ever walked through. My best guess is that it’s designed to accommodate at least two hours worth of waiting.
  • Even if you’re not big on thrill rides, it’s probably worth walking that queue. I am still picking my jaw up off the ground after visiting Professor Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. You are truly right there with the characters, and they are talking directly to you. It must be seen.
  • If you’re a plus-sized person, it’s fairly likely that you’re not going to fit in the ride cars for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Just sayin’.
  • When you rest on a bench inside the shaded Owlery, be sure to look up. The owls perched above you are so realistic that there’s even owl poop on the rafters.

And now, a few pleas from me (an overgrown geeky teenager) to you:

The first time you visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, enter from the Seuss Landing/Lost Continent side. That will mean turning right when you enter Islands of Adventure and going counterclockwise around the park. While you can also enter from Jurassic Park, you won’t get the same view of the castle in front of you and Hogsmeade all around.

This is a theme park, and it’s quite possibly the most detailed theme park “land” ever created. Don’t treat it like the county fair and run from ride to ride. Plan to spend several hours here taking in all the awesome details.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens June 18. It is included with regular admission to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.

8 new thrill rides opening in 2010

Whether you’re an avid thrill seeker or just looking to have a little fun, thrill rides and roller coasters offer riders endless good times and plenty of excitement. With the economy on the forefront of most American’s minds, many amusement parks have scaled back or delayed production of new rides. Luckily, not every park is afraid of the economic downturn, and these eight new rides opening this year offer entertainment that refuses to disappoint. Time to strap in and enjoy the ride!


The longest water coaster in the world, the Wildebeest, is opening May 14, 2010 at Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN. Riders splash through the 1,710 feet of yellow tubing at 36 feet per second in just 2 minutes, and 30 seconds on a four-person raft. The Wildebeest has a total of 7 drops, the tallest of which is 38 feet, and features 2 underground tunnels. With no access stairs, this family friendly ride is easily accessible to riders.

Shoot the Rapids
Cedar Point Theme Park in Sandusky, OH will show off this new log flume ride in 2010. Shoot the Rapids features an 85-foot first drop, and a 49-foot second drop. Unexpected special effects advance the playful backwoods, moonshine theme. With enough thrills to get the heart racing, but without the speeds that eliminate certain riders, Shoot the Rapids is a family thrill ride.

The Intimidator
Opening in the Spring of 2010 at Carowinds Theme Park in Charlotte, NC, the Intimidator boasts speeds in excess of 75 mph. The red track and checkerboard patterned landing are in honor of legendary Nascar driver Dale Earnhardt, who was the inspiration for the coaster. The tallest coaster in the Southeast, the Intimidator is 232 feet tall with a staggering first drop of 211 feet at a 74 degree angle. Open-air seating, modeled after Earnhardt’s famous Monte Carlo, allows the rider a clear view of the ride’s eight dips along its 5,316 feet of track for the duration of the 3 minute 33 second thrill ride.

Sky Rocket

Accelerating to 50 mph in only 3 seconds, the Sky Rocket is expected to open in May of 2010. The Sky Rocket is the seventh coaster to be erected at Kennywood Theme Park in West Mifflin, PA. The 2100-foot blue track features a 90 degree drop, two separate G-force pullouts, a traditional corkscrew, an inverted top hat, and a barrel roll. The orange flame accented cars reach the end of the track in 65 seconds.

Scorpion’s Tail
Noah Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, WI will set a new standard in water slides in 2010. The Scorpion’s Tail is 10 stories high, and 400 feet long. Shooting a single rider through a blue tube at more than 50 feet per second, this thrill ride “might sting a little.”

— The above was written by Chastity Goddard, Seed contributor.

Intimidator 305:
Kings Dominion
in Doswell Virginia will introduce the new giant coaster uses Nascar legend Dale Earnhardt’s nickname Intimidator. The name suits the coaster that towers at the intimidating height of 305 feet at its tallest. The first drop is 300 feet down at a terrifying 85 degree angle (nearly straight down!). The roaring ride hits amazing speeds of 90+ mph and will leaving the rider gripping their seat for the entire three minute journey in the fast lane.

The Dragon Challenge:
New roller coaster ride in Universal Studio’s Island’s of Adventure in Orlando Florida. The ride is a part of the parks newest themed section, Wizarding World of Harry Potter and actually two separate coasters. Riders must choose a ‘Dragon’, the red ‘Chinese Fireball’ or the blue ‘Hungarian Horntail’, each ‘Dragon’ offers a unique riding experience. The coasters seem to battle each other with tracks laid closely to one another simulating near hits to thrill passengers along for the battle ride. The mean ‘Hungarian Horntail’ hits top speed at 55 mph while the wicked ‘Chinese Fireball’ reaches 60 mph.

Revolution 360:
Seabreeze theme park
located in Rochester New York will open the revolutionary ride in the summer of 2010. Riders board a giant disk and sit on pedestal seats facing outward. The track is 123 feet long and u-shaped, the disk is shot up to a height of 5 stories and rotates the entire time it coasts up and down the half pipe track.

— The above was written by Rikki Dahl, Seed contributor.